The Golden Bough A study of magic and religion
Page: 411Some of the aboriginal tribes of China, as a protection against pestilence, select a man of great muscular strength to act the part of scapegoat. Having besmeared his face with paint, he performs many antics with the view of enticing all pestilential and noxious influences to attach themselves to him only. He is assisted by a priest. Finally the scapegoat, hotly pursued by men and women beating gongs and tom-toms, is driven with great haste out of the town or village. In the Punjaub a cure for the murrain is to hire a man of the Chamar caste, turn his face away from the village, brand him with a red-hot sickle, and let him go out into the jungle taking the murrain with him. He must not look back.
3. The Periodic Expulsion of Evils in a Material Vehicle
THE MEDIATE expulsion of evils by means of a scapegoat or other material vehicle, like the immediate expulsion of them in invisible form, tends to become periodic, and for a like reason. Thus every year, generally in March, the people of Leti, Moa, and Lakor, islands of the Indian Archipelago, send away all their diseases to sea. They make a proa about six feet long, rig it with sails, oars, rudder, and other gear, and every family deposits in its some rice, fruit, a fowl, two eggs, insects that ravage the fields, and so on. Then they let it drift away to sea, saying, “Take away from here all kinds of sickness, take them to other islands, to other lands, distribute them in places that lie eastward, where the sun rises.” The Biajas of Borneo annually send to sea a little bark laden with the sins and misfortunes of the people. The crew of any ship that falls in with the ill-omened bark at sea will suffer all the sorrows with which it is laden. A like custom is annually observed by the Dusuns of the Tuaran district in British North Borneo. The ceremony is the most important of the whole year. Its aim is to bring good luck to the village during the ensuing year by solemnly expelling all the evil spirits that may have collected in or about the houses throughout the last twelve months. The task of routing out the demons and banishing them devolves chiefly on women. Dressed in their finest array, they go in procession through the village. One of them carries a small sucking pig in a basket on her back; and all of them bear wands, with which they belabour the little pig at the appropriate moment; its squeals help to attract the vagrant spirits. At every house the women dance and sing, clashing castanets or cymbals of brass and jingling bunches of little brass bells in both hands. When the performance has been repeated at every house in the village, the procession defiles down to the river, and all the evil spirits, which the performers have chased from the houses, follow them to the edge of the water. There a raft has been made ready and moored to the bank. It contains offerings of food, cloth, cooking-pots, and swords; and the deck is crowded with figures of men, women, animals, and birds, all made out of the leaves of the sago palm. The evil spirits now embark on the raft, and when they are all aboard, it is pushed off and allowed to float down with the current, carrying the demons with it. Should the raft run aground near the village, it is shoved off with all speed, lest the invisible passengers should seize the opportunity of landing and returning to the village. Finally, the sufferings of the little pig, whose squeals served to decoy the demons from their lurking-places, are terminated by death, for it is killed and its carcase thrown away.